I write to you out of concern at events surrounding a service for the Feast of St Mary Magdalene held at St Saviour's church in Riga on Saturday 22nd July.
As you will know, that day was the date originally intended for a Gay Pride march through the city. There were, therefore, members of the gay and lesbian community present at the service, along with a wide number of visitors, members of St Saviour's Council and ecumenical guests. The police had been informed that the service would be taking place. Moreover, violence that took place around St Saviour's last year on the day of the Gay Pride march would surely have also caused police vigilance this year.
At the end of the service when the Chaplain, another priest and members of the congregation were leaving, they were assaulted by a group of people with excrement and eggs. This attack on the clergy, people and St Saviour's church, was only possible because of the lack of police presence. When called, it took, I am told, about seven minutes for the police to arrive. This is in marked contrast to the professionalism of the police last year around the church and is of grave concern to me and the Anglican community as it placed good people, and our building, at severe risk.
Some of the abusive and violent protestors were eventually, I believe, placed into police vehicles. May I ask what consequences they now face?
You have made it recently very clear that human rights lie at the very foundations of the Constitution of Latvia and that they are to be respected without any discrimination or restriction. Furthermore the Constitution also guarantees to the residents of Latvia the right to freedom of speech and assembly. I hope, along with many other Christians and people of goodwill, that those who threaten such human rights will be brought to account and that those attacked at St Saviour's will be interviewed for the information they can give to assist the process of bringing unlawful behaviour to account. In our opinion, this is important, because its seems evident that the events of July 22nd were not a spontaneous protest, but a pattern of behaviour by organized vigilante groups who use intimidation and threats of violence as their tools. European history is well versed in such tactics and their consequences.
Within the Anglican community there are differing opinions as to the moral appropriateness of homosexual behaviour. However, we are unequivocal in our belief that the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered toward people of the same sex is anathema to us and that, as children of God, homosexual people deserve the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship. The attack that occurred on Saturday was not, however, just an attack on homosexual people but a hostile assault on a varied number of people and on St Saviour's church.
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